5 tips for surviving a long ride

If you're cycling, you no doubt have wanted to go long. Maybe racing isn't for you and you just want to take it slow and easy but yet still cover some miles. I have done four long events, and I want to share with you what I learned in participating in these events: 5 tips for surviving a long ride

As of this writing, there are 3 weeks, 3 days and 17 hours until the start of the bikeMS: Tour De Farms charity ride in DeKalb, IL. It’s my third year of participating in this wonderful event and I am really excited about what’s to come that last weekend in June!

This year, I have a mileage goal in mind, but I am not going to share that at this point and time. You will have to wait for the end results. It’s a goal that I have been wanting to achieve for the past couple of years and have only gotten close, but no cigar.

Back in August, you may remember I wrote about the TriState ride. Well, I learned a few things before, during and after that ride that I would like to share to help those of you who are beginning cyclists succeed at doing a long ride. Remember, these are my own results, and I am only sharing what I have found what works for me and my body. You can expect different results so try new things during your training rides, not during an event if you are training for one. That’s not a good time to change things up.

Camelbak BottleHydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

In the past, I didn’t think this was an important issue. I had sports drinks in my bottles, there was going to be plenty at the rest stops so why should I worry about that before the ride? Firstly, the fluids in your body help lubricate your joints which equals less pain in your knees and other joints. Secondly, you are less likely to become dehydrated if you “water down” prior to the ride. This means at least 4 weeks out. Each person is different, my daily goal is 64 ounces and I drink 3 of my Camelbak 24oz. bottles a day to reach my goal.

Sodium intake during the ride

One of the little nuggets of information that I discovered was my sodium levels during the long rides were very low. Especially the 2014 ride where I bonked 50 miles in and was ready to throw in the towel. I was told by my buddy Todd “IF you can carry your bike to the van, then you can ride the rest of the way”. Which I did, mind you. That was the most grueling 25 miles of my life. I would have been happy to roll over and die on the side of the roadway. My issue was, two issues really, I over ate at lunch (only one item, not two) and I didn’t keep up on my sodium level. During the 2015 TriState ride, I ate as much sodium as I could, and I seemed to do really good. I was tired at the end, but I felt good enough to drive 2 hours home.

Don’t burn out early

“Take your time” I tell myself at the beginning of every ride. It’s not a race and you want to be able to finish strong. You will be tired, no doubt about that, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re ready to collapse. I like to warm up slowly by pedaling around 60-65rpm in my middle chain ring (I have a triple crank set). Then, after about 10-15 minutes, I will keep the rear cog in the same gear and then get into the big chain ring, all the while listening to my legs and watching my physical exertion the whole time. This is important as you don’t want to over tax your energy supply too early. Remember, you have hills to climb and you want to be fresh.

Climbing those hills

I’ll start with a huge tip: change our gears before you start the climb! I don’t know how many people I’ve seen start a climb in the wrong gear. Everyone climbs hills differently. Some stand, some sit, some mash the gears. Weight and physical condition play a huge role as to how well you’re going to do. I found that if I ride every day, for at least 15 minutes, and then do a long ride once in-awhile, at my present state, I should be able to ride at least 80 miles. I did that for the TriState and was successful. Maybe it was dumb luck, but if it works, it works. I did have some problems with the climbing during that ride, but it was because I did not use my big ring at all during training. I was afraid to because it made my legs burn. Big Baby. Buck up man! So this year, starting on the trainer, I incorporated getting my legs used to pushing big gears. This also conditions you for climbing as well. I have found that, though I’m out of breath, I am able to climb one of the biggest hills in my neighborhood in my middle chain ring! That within itself is a victory for me! Click here for a little '80's inspiration

Patience and timing

You have to make sure you ride smart. I have read that you should consume this many calories per hour, drink that many ounces, etc. Yes, you need to do those things before your body’s stores get depleted. I had a hard time with this because when you’re riding, I have found that there is so much to pay attention to, I forgot to drink or woof down a bar when I needed to. The first year I rode with Todd, I set up a timer to go off every 15 minutes on my watch to remind us to drink. We stayed hydrated that year, and even though I had some equipment issues, I think I did fairly well.

If you just listen to your body, take your time and get some long rides in before the event, you should be able to finish strong at the end of the day. Remember to pace, drink, eat and start all over again. At the end of the ride, you can look at your total mileage and be proud of what you just accomplished! Most importantly, you have to have fun! If you’re not having fun, you’re not going to succeed. It’s a bike ride, it should be fun and enjoyable.

Remember to be safe when riding: don't wear ear buds.

Until next time,



Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.



Leave a comment